A senior commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has said his country will hit back if the US makes any moves in the Gulf.
Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Guards’ aerospace division, told the Iranian Students’ News Agency: “An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past but now… the threats have switched to opportunities.”
He added: “If [the Americans] make a move we will hit them in the head.”
His words come after the US sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to address what president Donald Trump described as “clear indications” of threats to its troops in the region.
The US also approved a new deployment of patriot missiles to the Middle East on Friday.
Mr Trump, who has imposed sanctions on Iran, has urged the country’s leaders to talk with him about ending their nuclear programme. He said he would not rule out military action if they refused.
However, others in Iran have dismissed the US move as “psychological warfare” designed to intimidate, as the USS Abraham Lincoln was replacing another carrier that left the Gulf last month.
Spokesman for Iran’s parliamentary leadership, Behrouz Nemati quoted Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of the Guards, as saying the Americans had “started a psychological war because the comings and goings of their military is a normal matter”.
Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani warned his citizens that the conditions they face could be worse than those seen during Iran’s war with neighbouring Iraq in the 1980s.
He said: “Today, it cannot be said whether conditions are better or worse than the (1980-88) war period, but during the war we did not have a problem with our banks, oil sales or imports and exports, and there were only sanctions on arms purchases.
“The pressures by enemies is a war unprecedented in the history of our Islamic revolution… but I do not despair and have great hope for the future and believe that we can move past these difficult conditions provided that we are united.”
But Mr Rouhani also faces his own pressures – the country’s hardliners criticised his support of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, criticism that strengthened after the US left the deal and imposed sanctions on Iran.
The US sanctions are mainly aimed at weakening Iran’s economy, which is largely dependent on oil exports.
Reuters reported last week that sanctions had resulted in the halving of oil exports to one million barrels per day or less.
That was just days before Washington announced it would also cancel waivers for those importing Iranian oil.
An OPEC source, however, said Iranian exports would likely continue at about 400,000 to 600,000 barrels per day.